Adobe After Effects Training Notes

Adobe After-Effects Notes

Use bridge to browse through shape presets



  • Opacity (T)
  • Rotation (R )
  • Anchor Point
  • Position
  • Scale

Steps to Animations

  1. Click stop watch for property wished to animate
    1. Creates a keyframe
  2. Move in time to desired point and change property value
    1. Creates another keyframe changing the difference


  • Position is one of most common animation properties


  • Use the spacebar to do a quick preview
    • Previews quickly but doesn’t play very smoothly
  • Use the 0 key on numeric keypad for RAM preview
    • RAM Preview plays real-time and also plays with sound

Anchor Point

  • Anchor point is the key for all transformations, it is the center point around which all transformation occur
  • To move anchor point, use pan behind tool in top toolbar and drag onscreen anchor point to desired destination
  • Always adjust anchor point before transforming any other properties
  • Can animate anchor point to create Ken Burns effect (try this)


  • Hit R to animate rotation
  • number on left refers to complete rotations, so higher number equals more spins
  • number on right is additional degrees
  • as numbers move towards right, you get positive (clockwise) rotation, and opposite for negative rotation
  • keyboard shortcut to control workarea is B for beginning and N for end, places markers at playhead’s position on timeline

Copying Keyframes

  • can select from marquee to grab individual keyframes
  • can select title to grab all keyframes
  • with keyframes selected, ctrl C to copy them and ctrl V to paste them at the point where you playhead is located

Puppet Tool

  • The puppet tool can distort images in very organic ways for animations
  • to use, select the puppet pin tool
    • places joints, imagine you are using a marionette and you will control the character with strings
      • where would you place the strings, thats where points go
    • if you hold ctrl and select pin point, you can draw animation into the timeline and have After Effects create the keyframes
  • only use puppet tool for still images and try to use images with transparencies, not pictures


  • Scale is dependent upon your anchor point
  • can unlink x and y coordinates to make changes to x scale independently of y


  • Keyframe navigator (part to left of layer title) can be used to jump to other keyframes
  • also gives indication if playhead is on keyframe
  • can click navigator to add or remove keyframes, add them between two keyframes to create a pause

Animation Shortcuts

  • pgDn advances one frame at time
  • pgUp goes back one frame at time
  • home jumps to beginning of comp
  • end jumps to end of comp
  • shift home jumps to begining of work area
  • shift end jumps to end of work area
  • u shows all animated properties
  • u then u shows all properties that have been altered in any way
  • j jumps to previous keyframe
  • k jumps to next keyframe



  • AA – Hours
  • BB – Minutes
  • CC – Seconds
  • DD – Frames

Video Concepts

  • NTSC / PAL are broadcast standards
    • National Television Standards Committee
    • Phase Alternating Line (Europe)
  • Pixel Aspect Ratio refers to size of pixels
    • on computer monitors, they are square
    • on video displays, almost never square
      • if video looks squished, I might be having trouble with pixel aspect ratio
  • Ctrl K to change composition settings at later date

Trimming Layers

  • Hold shift while moving clip in time to snap to playhead

Trimming Layers Before Adding to Composition

  • Double-click footage icon in project window to launch footage explorer
  • can then move in and out points to trim layer before it is added

Replacing Footage

  • If you need to replace an edited clip with an unedited one, highlight desired layer in timeline and drag replacement layer onto it while holding Alt.  This will switch out layers with all edits (keying, glows, color channels, trimming, etc) to be copied onto the new layer

Applying Video Transitions

  • transitions are held in effects window
  • can apply transition by highlighting destination layer in timeline and double-clicking transition in explorer

Splitting Footage

  • B-Roll footage is footage designed to run during a segment of video
  • select layer and go to edit, then split layer

Stretching Footage

  • Stretch can be found in composition window by showing the column “stretch”
  • if stretch is less than 100%, it is sped up
  • can also use Time Warp Effect
    • basically like stretch but with greater control
      • speed works opposite of stretch
      • speed can be animated
    • Time Warp Effect can apply motion blur to video clips
      • to speed up rendering time effect animations, can change method to whole frame.  Important to change back through when you need to bounce to pixel motion
        • can also change method by enabling frame blend mode in the timeline.  this is useful when doing stretch edits



  • With effects, we get to where we want to go by combining multiple effects
  • Fractal Noise is a grayscale pattern generator
    • fractal type changes pattern
    • noise type breaks pattern to base level or more feathered
      • spline takes longer to render, leave at soft linear
    • contrast makes darks darker and brights brighters
    • brightness makes everything brighter
  • Turbulent Noise is just like fractal noise but it renders more impressively
  • Glow intensifies shadows and highlights, as if they are full of light
    • great effect for motion graphics
    • glow threshold determines how much of layer gets glow applied to it
    • glow radius determines how big glow is
    • glow intensity determines strength of color
      • a little goes a long way
    • glow colors operation can change glow colors
      • a and b colors match glow to colors from a and b below
  • CC Radial Fast Blur creates a zoom blur effect that renders very quickly
    • great for dream sequence
  • CC designates cycore effects
    • basically, they are less complex than the after effects versions of effects
  • Ramp is cheap and fast gradient layer
  • fill can change color for layer
  • When animating effects, right click on effect in effect window and select reveal in timeline to get a keyframe for the effect in the timeline


  • Motion blur makes movement more realistic
  • Fast blur gives overall blur to angle
  • Directional blur
  • CC Radial Fast Blur blurs around center point


  • Liquify allows you to distort object in crazy ways
    • most often, I will use warp tool
    • use reconstruct tool to return to normal
    • use pull in tool to bring pixels in
    • use blow out tool to enlarge pixels
  • Triwl warps around a central point
    • great for creating wavy lines
  • Wave warp gives effect of looking at object underwater

Shatter Effect

  • Change view to rendered
  • Change pattern to something cool, like glass
  • can look at shatter force by changeing back to wireframe view and moving the camera position
    • the blue circle is the force, anything that touches blue sphere blows up, anything that doesn’t does not
    • to use shatter, change depth value to force blue sphere doesn’t shatter layer, then animate shattering
      • radius controls size of force
      • strength makes a more powerful explosion
      • repetition value increases amount of pattern
      • extrusion (under shape) can change thickness of pieces


  • Lightning creates lightening
  • Beam creates an animateable beam of light
  • CC lightsweep gives a gleam
  • Cell Pattern creates biological patterns
    • must add color with different effect
  • With circle, can feather edges to create halo
  • Elipse allows you to change width and height independently
  • Radio wave creates concentric circles that fly at you

Lens Flare

  • Three different lens type
    • i like 105mm prime
  • when you make effect on black background then change blend mode to add, you only leave the effect and remove the background
    • this will be great for animating effects
  • lightnening effect completely replaces the layer upon which it is applied
    • to keep layer, select composite on original


  • Brainstorm allows user to see effect changes without applying them
  • with effects selected, click brainstorm icon in timeline window
    • you get a pallette with different effect combinations
    • can select to insert into comp, create new comp, or build variations off of one you like
    • can also brainstorm for simple properties of each effect


  • Down towards bottom of After Effects help, there is portion dedicated to effects

Vector Paint

  • vector paint effect allows you to paint on vector graphics similar to write on, but with much larger radius
    • change playback mode to animate to have keyframes generated
    • then composite paint as mask – IMPORTANT

Color Correction


  • Can use auto effects to do quick and easy edits
  • Levels is best for controlling brightness with a fine-tooth comb
    • grab endpoints to set you darkets and brightest colors
      • then drag middle to brighten or darken

Color Grading (Changing)

  • color balance allows us to mix red green and blue in shadows, midtones, and highlights
  • moving sliders adds or subtracts colors, with these relationships:
    • opposite of blue is yellow
    • opposite of green is magenta
    • opposite of red is cyan
  • removing red from channels makes video more scary
  • removing green and blue makes things more warm and fuzzy


  • can apply hue/saturation effect and colorize
    • be careful with lightness because all pixels are lightened or darkened, which is unacceptable for video or image editing
  • tint remaps white and black
  • tritone is similar to tint but allows us to manipulate tone channels
  • color balance is not meant to colorize anything
    • if image is black and white, color balance doesn’t do anything, you need greys
  • colorama takes every color value and converts them to shades of grey, then it remaps all colors
  • Leave color removes everything but one color


Working with Text

  • can create text layer from timeline
  • can create text box with type tool
  • double-click layer to select all text
  • After Effects has very powerful text rendering engine
    • must first select text layer in timeline
    • open up text layer and select animate
      • animator must have property to animate and a range selector
      • range selector determines how much of text is affected
        • by default, entire range of text is selected
      • offset value creates wave animation through text
      • can then add new animations on new ranges, or add to the current animator layer
  • Can apply layer styles to add different effects to layers
    • similar to layer styles in photoshop


  • To use paint tools, must be in layer panel
    • double click on layer in timeline window
  • can animate paint stroke with start and end values in paint layer
  • paint strokes are just repeats of specific shapes
  • you can change duration while painting
    • constant is total clip
    • single frame is used for colorizing a clip
    • write on is used to animate coloring process
  • can use clone stamp tool to photoshop clips


  • While drawing stars, hold spacebar to reposition and up or down key to add/remove points
  • to change fill or stroke type, click on “fill” or “stroke”


  • Use motion path for spacial interpolation between keyframes
  • Use auto-Orient to force object to train upon path, found from transform menu or ctrl shift o
    • doesn’t work well with rotation
  • Try no to use linear interpolation, using easing can make things more natural
  • can use wigler on any property, not just position
    • works great on opacity
    • must have 2 or more keyframes selected to insert wiggler between
  • to select all keyframes, have time position on keyframe and select property layer, this grabs all keyframes
  • Smoother is opposite of wiggler and tries to smooth animations
    • must use 3 or more keyframes to work


  • Four attributes carried through parenting
    • position
    • scale
    • anchor point
    • rotation
  • Expressions can be used to control properties
    • any two properties can be linked through expressions
  • Graph Editor offers the most advanced animation features
    • with keyframes selected, toggle graph editor switch in timeline window


  • Draw shape on layer to create mask
  • mask follows layer animations
  • can change mask mode
    • add removes everything on layer except shape
    • subtract leaves a hole on layer
  • Use mats to make other layers into masks
  • With modes toggeled, select track mat to whatever you wish the mask to be
    • alpha matte makes mask show under layer inside shape/text
    • “” inverted makes under layer show with shape/text cut out
    • lumamat uses brightness values of layer as mask
      • wherever mask is white will show click below
      • if clip is black, background is shown


  • Keylight 1.2 is most powerful keying effect
  • Apply keylight to movie
    • select color to be keyed
    • change view from final result to status
      • white stuff is completely there
      • black is completely removed
      • grey is partially transparent
      • change clip black to change greys to black
      • screen shrink adjusts fringe of white
  • Ultra is also great


  • Transparency is essential to compositing
  • Adjustment layers allow you to apply all effects to layers beneath adjustment layer
    • new > adjustment layer
    • color balance helps clips seam more coheasive



  • To stabilize camera motion
    • open tracker window
    • click stabilize with desired layer selected, opens tracker in composition window
    • use small square to grab piece footage that shouldn’t move much
    • use large square to grab outside regions that the footage could move
    • use the button in the tool window to preview changes
      • keep mouse clicked on button so you can stop at any time and make adjustments
    • apply to hold camera display on certain point
      • what it is doing is making adjustments to the position and anchor points at keyframes


  • Create tracking points much in the same way as you create stabilization points, just click the track button
  • tracking is used to pair the motion in one clip to the motion of another clip
    • basically automates position
    • have to apply tracking points to other layers
    • if open up tracking window and my desired tracking points are not shown, click the current track button

3D Space

  • Click the cube switch from the timeline to alter a layer in 3D space
    • don’t animate orientation
  • 3D layers are allowed to defy layer stack
    • 3D layers can go behind eachother
    • 2D layers don’t allow any overlapping
  • change views to see how layers are stacked in 3D space
    • views are in composition window
  • Use cameras to create different pespectives for camera
  • Camera is added as a layer in the timeline
  • With camera selected, use camera tool to change perspective and give layered elements a paralax effect
    • left button rotates
    • middle mouse pans
    • right mouse zooms in and out
  • light layers can be added to added light effects to 3D layers
  • not all effects allow for lights to be added
  • to apply shadows, change cast shadows to on
    • then open material options under layer
      • change cast shadows to on
    • shadow darkness is opacity
    • shadow diffusion is blug
  • can animate light moving around


  • can edit start and endpoints of audio tracks
  • asterisk key inserts layer markers
    • can do this while ram previewing
    • used to sync video cues to audio
  • can convert audio to keyframe, which will create a new layer with a null object
    • a dummy layer for storing data
    • show up as red box
    • hit u to see all changed keyframes
    • you only need to work with both channel keyframes
  • remember, alt + click to enable plugin expressions
    • then drag to both channels property of audio file to link disired property to audio keyframes.
      • the keyframes are related to the audio amplitude
    • can perform simple math functions in expressions


  • use precomposing to nest a group of layers into a composition, where you can still edit each individual layer
  • to invoke PreCompose, select group of layers and go to layer option and select pre-compose
    • Ctrl + Shift + c
  • precompositions can be nested into other precompositions
  • tap shift key with layer selected to view nested precomposition structure
    • navigation tools on top of composition window as well


  • When bringing in graphics from photoshop, use composition cropped layers to have each layer with proper anchor points
    • composition makes each layer anchor to the middle of the composition

Premier Pro

  • Premier Pro can try to transcribe your speech.  It is in metadata window of movie file with audio  in premier pro.
    • once audio is transcribed, go to preferences
      • import
        • XML metadata (last option)
    • now when you import movie file with audio, there are markers for speech


  • Can export to Adobe Clip Notes and have clip playable by regular Adobe Reader
    • use quicktime format for export
  • To render out, have composition selected and go to composition menu and select add to render queue
    • rendering converts after effects project and puts into common video format
    • render button completes all tasks in render queue
    • in render settings, can render work area or entire composition
    • H.264 is the shit
      • great compression
    • for web, export at half resolution, but keep best quality
  • to export with transparancy, go to render settings with transprancy layer
    • change render channel to RGB + alpha
      • depth to millions of colors plus
      • codec must support transparency

Lower Third is the name given to title bars on interviews and closeups and such